American Record Guide
, July 2009
The opening bars of Symphony-Diptych pound at us aggressively and abrasively—a harsh industrial sound akin to the ninth and final movement of Bajoras’s Symphony 2, titled ‘Departure (Russian Tanks)’. But we soon find that the Lithuanian can write haunting passages for his woodwind soloists and a rich array of telling accents for percussion, his occasional relapses into minimalism counterbalanced with the stray flourish of the harp. II, switching from Presto to Moderato, presents a bleaker soundscape, more reminiscent of Shostakovich, with fine mysterious passages where a forlorn trombone converses with soft strings. Here the fortissimo sections are sweeping and majestic rather than brutishly mechanical, building to a tragic climax—with a jarring afterword slightly less mischievous than Till Eulenspiegel’s.
Begun in 1998, a full 14 years after Bajoras started his symphonic Diptych (and 28 years after completing Symphony 2), the Violin Concerto has no Shostakovich oppressiveness, though it’s far from carefree. The four-movement work would no doubt benefit from a more charismatic performance than Rusne Mataityte’s, but the soloist is never called on to vie with massive orchestral accompaniment.
The manner is often more like a concerto for orchestra, with accompaniment coming from woodblocks, clarinet, snare drum, or brass instead of strings. Until the final Allegro Vivace, Mataityte needn’t burn with lightning virtuosity. Her ardor counts for more in the preceding Andante, which crests with a cadenza that elicits impeccable double stopping.
Exodus I is as decisively post-USSR in its sound as the concerto, though its gestation period, 1991–94, actually straddles the disintegration of the empire. Written in memory of the composer’s mother, the elegiac piece sparkles with soft percussion and, early on, glows with long-breathed brass, string, and woodwind passages, evoking a chorale. As the bass and snare drums grow more insistent, amid regular chimes from the tubular bells, we can sense the phantasmagoric funeral march that will ensue. This is surely the most accessible composition here, sweetened after the final brass fanfare with an ethereal harp-laced fadeout. The recordings, done at Congress Hall in Vilnius in October 2004 and April 2005, are marvelously engineered. Gintaras Rinkevicius seems to conduct with the composer perched on his shoulder.